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The Net Takeaway: Yahoo! Acquires Indextools


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Yahoo! Acquires Indextools · 04/09/2008 09:37 AM, Tech

(Note: I work at Yahoo!, and I’m jazzed about this acquisition. I am speaking here as a guy who loves web analytics, not as an official Y! spokesperson or anything. So, my opinion here may or may not be shared by folks at Y! and should not be taken as official company stance, policy or anything at all official, actually).

Lot’s of folks don’t know that Yahoo! has some of the premier web analytic talent in the world working here. From founders of companies like Accrue and Keylime through to folks working on analyzing usage data across the largest site in Internet history, we’ve focused on trying to turn data into insights, into something useful about people and their preferences and expectations, into knowledge.

But you can’t always do everything yourself. And sometimes, you come across some more people who “just get it”. So, today, I’m pleased to help announce that Yahoo! has acquired IndexTools. Please see Yahoo! Announces Agreement to Acquire IndexTools’ Analytics Business for the official announcement.

I first encountered these guys a few years ago when working with Tesco’s email at e-Dialog. Tesco, the largest retailer in England and one of the tops in the world, doesn’t trust their data to just anybody (trust me, it really took some time to get that data just for their email!). Even back then, IndexTools had some clever ideas around segmentation and report customization, but they hadn’t made as much penetration to the states. Nevertheless, they had set their sights on the “Omniture” market, and were growing quickly.

Now, they’ve expanded their client base around the world, along with agency reseller partners who use their tool as their primary analytic dashboard for their clients. The tool continues to be a very impressive mix: It has a strong segmentation component, including the ability to mix passed-in variables with web behaviors. It has easy drag and drop report customization, like an Excel Pivot Table online. It features well laid out reports and a pretty good sense of giving reports which are pretty helpful out of the box.

The obvious question you are going to ask: Does this compete with Google Analytics? Well, does BMW compete with Ford? Yes, they both sell cars, but they are attacking different markets with different approaches. There are some wonderful features in Google Analytics, and I use it here on this blog. There are things that Google Analytics does that Indextools does not, and vice versa.

But we came at this from a different direction. You see, Yahoo has a variety of ways to interact with partners and users: you can be a development partner building something around Maps or our other APIs, you can be an advertiser running rich media or search ads or microsites, you can be a small business running your store on Yahoo Shopping (and, yes, you can be a user using RSS or mail or other services: think about what analysis could do for them? Hmmm…) and across all this, we realized that we needed a capability which could analyze usage data across a variety of these modalities and help people working with our functionality to get optimal use out of it.

As part of being a partner, you have to give people ways to understand how their efforts with you are working. So, yeah, from a marketing analysis POV for advertisers with us (we do consider them partners), this tool makes sense; it delivers the power of Omniture for a fraction of the price. It links your marketing to behaviors on your site, with segmentation and other analytics approaches at your fingertips.

But it also will lend itself to the variety of other ways partners work with us: imagine giving that “maps functionality” developer an understanding of how their tool is being used. Imagine helping people using any of the APIs we offer understand how to optimize their site, drive traffic, and get better usage.

Google Analytics is a basic tool, and it delivers some pretty basic site analytics (though I like the testing component, it’s pretty advanced for a basic tool). It’s not aimed at the guys who really want to understand their data, nor is it aimed at the variety of ways people can work with Google (it ignores all that API stuff, for example). We see Indextools as the foundational start to understanding not just marketing and its impact on site behavior, but how to understand your online site usage to achieve your goals, be they commerce, fame, or just a mention on Techcrunch. Not many companies have the capability to deliver on that story.

In fact, we looked at most of the tools on the market today: all the majors, and many startups. Few had the combination of capabilities to deliver on this approach: strong event-driven data capability with an attractive reporting front end, and a back end which is flexible in its approach to meeting the analytic need of a very different web from the one Omniture, Webtrends, etc. started out measuring. Not to say that those tools suck (because they don’t, not completely), but that we were looking for a unique mix, and Indextools had it.

Go click around their site: Look at the functionality. Like I said, it’s certainly not Google Analytics; its more powerful and yes, a bit more complex on the interface (at this point). It probably won’t be free to everyone initially. In fact, it may never go free and unfettered; you may have to partner with Yahoo! to get access to this functionality (which might simply mean advertise with a search ad, but you get the idea). You’ll hear more about how things will fall out in the near future (BTW, the world changes on a daily basis, so keep watching the news (cough, hostile takeover attempt, cough)).

If you just want to get page counts, there are lots of free offerings, and Google Analytics is great at this. But if you want to see what it’s like to have access to Omniture-like capability without having to pay Omniture, you want to see how a data-driven approach to the world looks, if you want to see how analytics can improve every aspect of interaction on the web, then keep your eyes on what we’re doing with IndexTools.

I think you’ll start to see Yahoo! as more than a media company. You’ll start to see what we can do with data and technology (both invented here, acquired, and partners), things we’ve used in-house but are now starting to share with the world. You’ll see Yahoo! as a technology company. As an analytics company. And you’ll think about analytics in a new way because of what we’re doing.

Congratulations to Indextools!

PS: For some additional perspective, check out Eric Peterson’s post.

Bob Page (mentioned above) also posted about the acquisition.

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  1. Very nice assessment of the Index Tools capabilities.

    Bill    Apr 9, 12:58 PM    #

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